I grew up in urban New Jersey without much exposure to
animals except for the stray cats my mom frequently trapped to bring to
shelters for spaying and neutering. Living on welfare with my brother,
my family qualified for a special program that would pay for my
education all the way through college. Off I went to Pennsylvania, dairy
country, where I attended school for twelve years. While at boarding
school, living in a group home, we would often take on different
volunteering projects. We started taking trips to a nearby dairy barn,
and there we would clean out stalls and bottle-feed baby calves.
At this young age, I wasn’t questioning where these
calves’ mothers were, or why they needed a bottle filled with powdered
milk. I would squat down next to these newborns and scratch their heads
lovingly. One night at dinnertime, we all got in line for the buffet.
Frozen peas and square carrots, boiled down to mush, mashed potatoes out
of a box, and a strange breaded meat. I asked my houseparents what the
strange meat was. “It’s veal.” I tried to recall if I had ever heard of
this concoction. “What’s veal?” I asked. “Is it like hamburger, or
chicken, or…” “No,” my housemother replied, “It’s baby cow.” “WHAT!!
Baby cow? Like the ones we take care of?” “No, not them,” she said.
Eventually I stopped eating “weird” meat, and at age
twelve I was an aspiring vegetarian. It took me until my freshman year
in college to fully understand the importance and distinction of
veganism. By this time I had met my loving fiancé, Nate, and slowly,
without pressure, he came to understand my views on the abuse of
The first time I visited Nate in his apartment, it was
hard to avoid eye contact with the large bear rug that hung on the
living room wall. He had been shot and dragged out of the woods by Nate
himself. At the time Nate was also frying up steak and potatoes for
dinner. He had never heard of a factory farm, or even thought about eggs
and milk as murderous by-products. It was a whole new world to him.
Together we went to the PETA Helping Animals 101 conference in New York
City. There it was pounded into our heads that in every glass of milk or
chunk of cheese is a little dead veal calf. I couldn’t handle the guilt,
I decided to become vegan. It also helped that I was introduced to soy
ice cream that weekend. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Together we went through the journey of cutting out
home made mozzarella cheese and Mexican omelets on Saturday mornings.
Fortunately, Nate is a great cook and has a lot of fun testing new
recipes. You’ve probably tried one of his dishes at a vegan potluck!
As a couple, we have volunteered at different farm
animal sanctuaries, strengthening our bond with the animals who are no
longer on our plates. We have protested in front of KFC restaurants, and
every year we go down to New York City for the annual Fur Free Friday
demonstration. It’s obvious our passion has spread to include every
issue facing animals, but it stemmed from learning about the most abused
animals on the planet, farm animals.
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